Following Orthros on the third day of the Sts. Sebastian and Mardarije Institute the fourth session, entitled "The Stages of the Spiritual Life", began with an introductory word from the moderator Monk Siluan.
Fr. Maximos spent the majority of the morning session reading from selected texts of St. Maximos' writings, more specifically, selections from his Questions to Thalassios. This was followed by questions and answers resulting in a lively discussion. More discussion continued after a short break which began with a word of clarification by Fr. Maximos on the passions in light of the teachings and writings of St. Maximos the Confessor.
The first full day of the Institute began on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 with the celebration of Orthros followed by coffee and refreshments. The first session of the Institute followed: Virture and Knowledge in the Theology of St. Maximos the Confessor.
In the first session Fr. Maximos introduced the works and the complexity of the writings of St. Maximos the "father of Byzantine theology". The session continued after a short break with a lively discussion. After lunch and a short break two sessions followed. The first was entitled "A Failed Worldview" was held, led by Fr. Maximos and moderated by Segurd Lefsrud. Afterward Fr. Damascene moderated the session "The Fall and Its Consequence" after which Fr. Gregory Edwards moderated "Reason". The afternoon sessions provoked much discussion.
The second annual St. Sebastian and St. Mardarije Ecclesial Orthodox Institute began on Monday, February 22, 2016, the leaving-taking of the Meeting of the Lord.
His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America and St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in San Diego, California are host to this year's event held in cooperation with the Clergy Brotherhood of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
This great saint, Haralambos, was a bishop in Magnesia who suffered for Christ in his 113th year. When a terrible persecution began during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus, the elderly Haralambos did not hide from the persecutors. Instead, he freely and openly preached the Christian Faith. He endured all tortures as though he were in someone else’s body. When they skinned him alive, the forgiving elder said to the emperor’s soldiers: “Thank you, my brethren, for in scraping my old body you renew my spirit for a new eternal life.” He worked many miracles and converted many to the Faith. Even the emperor’s daughter, Galina, abandoned the idolatry of her father and became a Christian. Condemned to death and brought to the place of execution, St. Haralambos raised his hands to heaven and prayed to God for all people, that God would grant them bodily health and spiritual salvation and that He would multiply their fruit of the earth: “O Lord, Thou knowest that men are flesh and blood; forgive them their sins and pour out Thy grace on all!” After praying, this holy elder gave up his soul to God before the executioner lowered the sword on his neck. He suffered in the year 202. The emperor’s daughter, Galina, removed his body and honourably buried it.
The Sunday after the Sunday of Zacchaeus is devoted to the Publican and the Pharisee. At Vespers the night before, the TRIODION (the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent) begins.
Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who scrupulously observed the requirements of religion: he prayed, fasted, and contributed money to the Temple. These are very good things, and should be imitated by anyone who loves God. We who may not fulfill these requirements as well as the Pharisee did should not feel entitled to criticize him for being faithful. His sin was in looking down on the Publican and feeling justified because of his external religious observances.